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The Way the World Works

A weekly roundup of international news oddities



The Way the World Works
The Staten Island Zoo is weathering a storm of controversy over the prediction made by its resident groundhog, Staten Island Chuck, on Feb. 2—an annual event at the zoo. Chuck popped up on a Facebook "livestream" at the designated hour, on the designated day, but something seemed ... off. After hours of accumulating snow in the New York area, the New York Post reported, Chuck was seen to emerge into bright sunlight with no snow on the ground, his handlers wearing sweatshirts. "So there ya have it, folks, we're gonna have an early spring," announced zoo executive director Ken Mitchell. Viewers weren't fooled, one commenting, "Welppp, this isn't live." Previous Groundhog Day celebrations at the zoo have also raised a ruckus. In 2014, a stand-in groundhog named Charlotte died after being dropped by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and in 2009 Chuck bit Mayor Mike Bloomberg's finger.

Least Competent Criminals
Edner Flores, 34, entered a PNC Bank branch in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood on Jan. 27 and allegedly tried to rob it by handing a teller a note stating that he wanted $10,000, with "no die (sic) packs," and that he was armed, according to a federal criminal complaint. The teller activated a silent alarm and asked him to fill out a withdrawal slip, which he did, then asked for his ATM card. The helpful Flores instead produced a temporary Illinois state ID card, authorities said. WMAQ-TV reported police arrived while Flores was still at the window, arrested him and found a knife in his jacket, according to a police report.

• Women changing in the locker room at Onelife Fitness in Stafford, Virginia, were unhurt on Jan. 30 when Brian Anthony Joe, 41, fell through the ceiling, according to the Stafford County Sheriff's Office, landing on one of them. Joe, who fell about 10 feet, the sheriff said, was also uninjured, and the New York Post reported the women held him there in the locker room until authorities arrived to arrest him on charges of burglary, vandalism and peeping.

Bright Idea
Drag queen Spar-Kelly and her neighbors in St. Johns, Florida, are tired of parents parking along their street during school pickup to avoid the traffic at the nearby Creekside High School. So she dressed in her finest and for three days held up a simple sign that read, "This is not student pick-up, honey." "If what it takes is just me standing here and telling people to move along, I'll be a diva, and I'll tell someone to move right along," she told WJXT-TV. On Jan. 27, her efforts paid off: A St. Johns County Sheriff's deputy showed up to patrol the street, and plans are being made to install new "no parking" signs.

Mountain > Molehill
Roger Broadstone, 67, was at home in Twining, Michigan, when state police officers arrived on Jan. 20 to investigate allegations of $1,500 worth of merchandise purchased with a stolen credit card, but he refused to let them in without a search warrant, WJRT-TV reported. When the troopers returned with the warrant, they found the illegally purchased items inside the house, but they also found that Broadstone had barricaded himself inside and allegedly set a booby trap and other items designed to harm the officers. Broadstone was charged with two counts related to the credit-card transaction, and 16 counts related to the confrontation with authorities, including five counts of attempted murder and four counts of resisting police. He was being held on a $1.125 million bond.

Weird Science
Researchers have solved the mystery of how bare-nosed wombats, native to southeastern Australia, produce poop in cubes, reports the International Business Times. Wildlife ecologist Scott Carver of the University of Tasmania is lead author on a study, published Jan. 28 in the journal Soft Matter, that details the particular inner workings of the wombat's digestive tract that produce the square-shaped dung. "This ability ... is unique in the animal kingdom," Carver said. "Our research found that ... you really can fit a square peg through a round hole."

Oh, That Old Thing?
Italian police arrested an unnamed 36-year-old in Naples on Jan. 16 on suspicion of receiving stolen goods and found a 500-year-old copy of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvatore Mundi," a painting they returned to the museum it belonged to, surprising museum officials, who had no idea it had been missing. The painting is part of the Doma Museum collection at the San Domenico Maggiore church in Naples, where the room it had hung in "has not been open for three months," Naples prosecutor Giovanni Melillo told The Guardian. The copy was made by Giacomo Alibrandi in the early 1500s; da Vinci's original painting sold in 2017 for a record-breaking $450 million at auction and hasn't been seen in public since.

Authorities in Essex County, England, received a tip on Jan. 16 and arrived at the Freemasons' Saxon Hall expecting to put an end to the illegal "rave" reported to be happening there, but instead of loud music and wild teenagers, officers found old people lining up to get their COVID-19 vaccines, Echo News reported. "Grumpy old men and grumpy old women were in abundance," confirmed Dennis Baum, chairman of the hall, with "wheelchairs, Zimmer frames and walking sticks." Baum said things got testy when the vaccine was late arriving: "It was absolute chaos ... The car park became chockablock with 80-year-old-plus drivers." Police remained to offer their assistance with the traffic.

Government in Action
Watertown, Massachusetts, recently installed new parking meters with updated technology to make payment easier, but the city is instead fielding complaints from residents who say the meters are too tall to use. "I'm 5'7," and I have to do a little tiptoe reach," Marianne Iagco told WBZ-TV, which reported Feb. 2 that the meters measure about 5 feet 6 inches high. Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said public works employees will be lowering the meters to 48 inches in the weeks to come. "It's actually sort of refreshing to have a problem of slightly shorter stature than unemployment, COVID-19, no food and no money," commented optimistic resident Ken Pershing.

Lost and Found
Retired Navy meteorologist Paul Grisham, 91, of San Carlos, California, was reunited on Jan. 30 with the leather wallet he lost 53 years ago when his 13-month tour in Antactica ended and he returned home without it. The wallet had been found behind a locker during renovations at McMurdo Station and made its way back to him through the weeks-long efforts of a group of amateur detectives working to track him down. "I was just blown away," Grisham told The San Diego Union-Tribune. The billfold still contained Grisham's Navy ID, driver's license and an assortment of other items, including a recipe for homemade Kahlua, money order receipts from his poker winnings and a set of instructions on what to do in case of an attack. It did not contain any money because there had been nothing to buy at the station.

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